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Professor Perna has given more than 300 speeches, keynote addresses, and presentations to a wide range of audiences, including policymakers, her fellow researchers, and the public. She has given invited testimony to U.S. Congressional committees and has shared her knowledge of affordability, access, and equity with a variety of groups, including: 

  • U.S Department of Education

  • Other federal and state policymakers

  • Education Writers Association

  • Association for the Study of Higher Education

  • American Educational Research Association

  • Council for Opportunity in Education

  • Lumina Foundation

  • College and university leaders and administrators



Improving Equity in Higher Education Attainment: Renewing Our Commitment

In this keynote address for the “Focusing on the First Year” conference at Ohio State University, Laura Perna describes the structural and systemic barriers that contribute to inequity in college attainment and discuss institutional practices that can improve outcomes for students from underserved groups. 

MARCH 2023

Improving College Access and Affordability: The Promise of ‘Free Tuition’ Programs

In this named lecture, Professor Perna discusses the importance of improving college access and affordability and the potential role of free tuition programs in addressing the barriers to higher education attainment.

APRIL 2023

Graduate Student Council Session at AERA
Ambitious College Student or Unreliable Debtor: The Future of Student Loan Debt

In this fireside chat, Professor Perna discusses the possible implications of the proposed $20,000 in loan forgiveness, the likelihood of seeing other proposed forgiveness models, and the future of funding higher education for the next generation.

11:40am to 1:10pm CDT (12:40 to 2:10pm EDT), Hyatt Regency Chicago, Floor: West Tower - Ballroom Level, Regency D

Presentations On-Demand

The Role of States in Higher Education. Testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Washington, D.C., July 2014

Improving College Access and Completion for Low-Income and First-Generation Students: The Role of College Access and Success Programs. Testimony to the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., April 2015

In this congressional testimony, Professor Perna described the disadvantages faced by low-income students aspiring toward a post-secondary degree. She offered five recommendations for federal policy aimed at overcoming these barriers: 1) Assist students with navigating pathways into and through college, with particular attention to financial aid processes. 2) Target students with the greatest financial need. 3) Encourage programs to recognize the state, regional, and local context and characteristics of students served. 4) Leverage federal spending to serve greater numbers of students. 5) Encourage research and evaluation to improve understanding of what works.

Improving College Access and Success for All Students. Invited “ED Talk” delivered at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, D.C.

“To provide all students with meaningful opportunities for higher education, we must address the structural failings in our educational system.” That’s how Professor Perna framed the problem of inequitable college-education attainment in this concise talk of April 2016. She discussed the gaps in attainment between groups, why they exist, and what we might do to close them. Students, she said, need three things in order to enroll and succeed in college: financial resources, sufficient academic preparation, and the necessary knowledge and support to navigate their way into and through college. Professor Perna discussed the five-state policy study she conducted with Joni Finney, probing into the forces influencing higher education attainment in each state and looking for lessons that could lead to solutions.

Delaware College Scholars Podcast Interview

In this wide-ranging 2021 interview with Delaware College Scholar Jordan Bonner, Professor Perna discussed the barriers that stand in the way of truly equitable higher-education opportunities. “We have individual agency in the decisions we make,” she said, “but so many of the outcomes for different people are really determined by the options that are available. Who has how much money to pay the costs, are there different resources for different groups? That really gets at my passion: how can we level the playing field to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to achieve their dreams?” She noted that college promise programs offer hope, not only by providing financial assistance but by sending the message that “college is possible.”

​​Understanding the Costs of College: “Research Minutes” Podcast Episode

Research Minutes is a weekly podcast offering discussions of new and important education research. In this episode from 2020, Laura Perna joined Jonathan Supovitz, executive director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) to discuss the effectiveness of “net price calculators.” These are tools that the federal government requires all colleges participating in federal student aid programs to post on their websites to provide cost information to prospective students. Professor Perna co-led a study on the accuracy of net price calculators at dozens of college and found that many institutions are providing incomplete, outdated, or misleading information.

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